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Ernest Shackleton

Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton (1874 - January 5, 1922) was an Irish-born explorer, now chiefly remembered for his expedition of 1914-1916, in the ship, Endurance.

Shackleton was born in County Kildare, Ireland 1874, and served as a merchant marine officer. He went to school at Dulwich College from 1887 to 1890.

He participated in the National Antarctic Expedition of 1901, led by Robert Falcon Scott.

Shackleton with Scott and Dr. Edward Wilson[?] trekked south towards the South Pole in 1902. The journey proceeded under difficult conditions, partially the result of their own inexperience with the Antarctic environment, poor choices and preparation and the pervading assumption that all obstacles could be overcome with personal fortitude. They used dogs, but failed to understand how to handle them. As with most of the early British expeditions, food was foolishly in short supply; the personnel on long treks were usually underfed by any sensible measure and were essentially starving. Scott, Wilson and Shackleton made their "furthest south" of 8217'S on December 31, 1902. They were 480 statute miles from the Pole. Shackleton developed scurvy on the return trip and Dr. Wilson was suffering from snow blindness at intervals.

When the Morning relieved the expedition at in early 1903, Scott had Shackleton returned to England, though he had nearly fully recovered. There is some suggestion that Scott disliked Shackleton's popularity in the expedition and used his health as an excuse to remove him; he was Merchant Marine and Scott was Royal Navy - which was also part of the contention with whether Armitage was to remain for the second winter. In part, Scott exhibited unusual stamina and may not have recognized differing abilities of others.

Shackleton organized and led the "British Antarctic Expedition" (1907-1909) to Antarctica. The primary and stated goal was to reach the South Pole. The expedition is also called the Nimrod Expedition, referring to the ship used. Shackleton's base camp was built on Ross Island at Cape Royds, approximately 20 miles north of the Scott's Hut of the 1901-1904 expedition. Because of poor success with dogs during Scott's 1901-1904 expedition, Shackleton used Manchurian ponies for transport, which did not prove successful.

Accomplishments of the expedition included the first ascent of Mount Erebus, the active volcano of Ross Island; the location of the Magnetic South Pole[?] by Douglas Mawson, David and MacKay (January 16, 1909); locating the Beardmore Glacier passage. Shackleton, with Wild and Adams, reached a point only 156 km from the South Pole. For three years Shackleton basked in the glory of being "the man who reached furthest to the south". Of his failure to reach the South Pole, Shackleton remarked: "Better a live donkey than a dead lion."

The Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition set out in 1914. Its goal was to cross the Antarctic from a location near Vahsel Bay on the south side of the Weddell Sea, reach the South Pole and then continue to Ross Island on the opposite side of the continent. The expedition's goal had to be abandoned when the ship, "Endurance", was beset by sea ice short of its goal of Vahsel Bay. It was later crushed by the pack ice. The ship's crew and the expedition personnel endured an epic journey by sledge across the Weddell Sea pack and then boat to Elephant Island[?]. Upon arrival at Elephant Island off the Antarctic Peninsula, they rebuilt one of their small boats and Shackleton with five others set sail for South Georgia to seek help. This remarkable journey in a 6.7 meter boat (the James Caird[?]) through the Drake Passage to South Georgia in the late Antarctic Fall (April and May) is perhaps without rival. They landed on south side of the South Georgia and than crossed the spine of the island in a 36-hour journey that is also remarkable. The 22 men who remained on Elephant Island were rescued by the Chilean ship Yelcho after three other failed attempts on August 30, 1916 (22 months after departing from South Georgia). Everyone from the "Endurance" survived. In December 1916, Shackleton embarked on a rescue mission to pick members of the Ross Sea Party. Ross Sea Party suffered casualties, but they still managed to lay food depots on the other side of the continent.

In 1921, Shackleton set out on another Antarctic expedition, but died at sea on January 5, 1922 and was buried on South Georgia.


In 1994, the James Caird Society[?] was set up to preserve the memory of Shackleton's achievements. Its first Life President was Shackleton's younger son, Lord Shackleton.

Sir Ernest Shackleton is the subject of Shackleton, a two-part Channel 4 drama directed by Charles Sturridge[?] and starring Kenneth Branagh as the explorer.

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